The United States and the Great Powers: World Politics in the Twenty-First Century / Edition 1

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The idea that world politics can be understood in terms of a US dominated unipolarity became generally accepted during the 1990s. Following the September 11 attacks, however, US foreign policy took an imperial turn and many began to question the form, style and substance of US leadership at the start of the 21st Century.

But why is the US behaving as if it lived in a world of enemies? What can other great powers do to change the behaviour of the US, and what will be the consequences if they fail? Could the EU and China become superpowers alongside the US? And what would happen if the US stepped down from its superpowers role creating a world with only great powers and no superpowers?

In this important new book, Barry Buzan seeks to provide answers to these pressing questions. He begins by introducing the core concepts of polarity and identity in world politics, which he uses to develop three possible scenarios for the future development of the international political system. Buzan contends that we are not living in a strictly unipolar world, where the great powers are helpless in the face of the US. Instead he argues that the existence of great powers alongside an American superpower plays a crucial role in creating both opportunities and responsibilities which will shape the way in which world politics unfolds in the coming decades. What the great powers do or don't do will be crucial to how long US dominance lasts. It will also help determine whether the period of American hegemony will develop or destroy the unique multilateral international society built up by US foreign policy over the last half century.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The argument is rigorous and intriguing - revealing both for thelimits and possibilities of applying structural models to grandstrategy."

Alex Goodall, Times Higher EducationSupplement

"An extremely lucid exposition of contemporary big powerinternational politics, with measured and sensible glimpses intovarious conceivable future world orders."

John Dumbrell, International Affairs

"This is a superb piece of scholarship. It both draws on anddeepens contemporary IR theory and illuminates the real world ofpost-9/11 international relations ... indeed, it does what fewcurrent books in IR can claim in recent years - it truly links thetheoretical world to the real world and thereby advances ourunderstandings in both realms."

John Ikenberry, Georgetown University

"The subject of mapping the international system since the endof the Cold War is one that has attracted a number of writers, butfew have approached it with the clarity and rigour of this text.Barry Buzan writes very well, with the result that his argument isreadily accessible and easy to engage with."

James Mayall, University of Cambridge

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745633749
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 10/22/2004
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Barry Buzan is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
Pt. I Identity and polarity 13
2 Identity 16
3 Polarity in theory and practice 31
4 Great powers : a troubled concept? 46
5 Rethinking definitions : superpowers, great powers and regional powers 58
Conclusions to part I : the interplay of polarity and identity in IR theory 77
Pt. II Three scenarios for the future 81
6 Where we are now : one superpower and several great powers 86
7 Options for the future I : two or three superpowers and a few great powers 107
8 Options for the future II : no superpowers and several great powers 132
Conclusions to part II : the interplay of polarity and identity in the three scenarios 147
Pt. III US foreign policy and the scope for action 151
9 Understanding the turn in US foreign policy 153
10 Conclusions : where to from here? 183
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